Review: Red Vine

Review: Red Vine

Cosy dining spot with great Welsh wine

Located beside a picturesque view of Clapham Common, Red Vine is the brainchild of owner and manager Richard Herbert. They have a distinct focus on wines: Richard and his family are wine makers who own the Penarth Vineyard in Wales, which has grown over the years and now produces brandy as well as a selection of wines, with a particular dedication to sparkling wines.

Having grown up in the town of Penarth, Wales – although Penarth Vineyard is not located in the town itself – I felt a certain calling toward Red Vine. It’s not often that Welsh wine is given centre stage, and I would say I’m more qualified than many to say that Wales, with its green, rolling hills, has a lot to offer the world.

The menu, curated by Richard and head chef Julio Amado (previously at Aquavit), focuses on seasonal British ingredients with a Mediterranean twist. This is divided into small and large plates, as well as a selection of pies.

The restaurant is compact and intimate, with the distinct flavour of a cosy Mediterranean village eatery. We were greeted by Richard himself, who clearly immerses himself in the everyday goings-on of the restaurant. There is a distinctly warm, personal feeling to the running of things, harkening to the family roots of the business.

It was a few days after Valentine’s, and they still had an extensive selection of tongue-in-cheek cocktail specials on the menu. Strawberries and lemon were smattered throughout the recipes, and a few cocktails bore whimsical, romance-themed names. My friend and I ordered one called the Heart Break (vanilla vodka, Tequila Rose, Bailey’s, brandy and coconut milk) and the Water Lily (gin, Crème de Violet, Triple Sec and lemon). They arrived sprinkled with a smattering of red petals, and a singular gummy heart on a stick. It was a delicious and quirky way to begin the evening.

Next up, it was time for the first course. Of the small plates, we ordered the bread selection with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and the shelled king prawns pan-fried in a garlic sauce. The bread was perfectly grilled, toasted to just the right hint of char. But it was the prawns that really caught our attention. Large and succulent, though it was the sauce that truly elevated the dish – a simple yet gorgeous concoction that we couldn’t get enough of, proceeding to dip the rest of our bread into it once we’d polished off the prawns.

The restaurant has a good selection of wines from all over the world as well as Wales. We settled on a bottle of Malibu Coast syrah-cabernet sauvignon special blend, a wondrously smooth wine, with a dynamic and full-bodied taste that didn’t overdo it on the richness. It was understated yet elegant.

Our large plate shortly arrived: my friend had opted for the battered haddock and chunky chips with mushy peas (a modern classic) while I chose the truffle tortelloni tossed with garlic butter. The tortelloni, topped with parmesan and fresh basil, were divinely creamy, and the minimal ingredients allowed the deep, earthy flavour of the truffle to shine.

Red Vine know not to overdo it on ingredients: they keep their dishes narrow and refined, knowing exactly when to let the tastes speak for themselves. Nothing overpowers. Their mixture of classic British dining and Mediterranean influences proves a simple and successful recipe.

My friend tells me she is already planning a return trip, bringing her visiting family to the restaurant. If that doesn’t scream success, nothing does.